When you work with something every day, you’re likely to end up with at least some strong opinions about it.
I work with words every day, so I have some strong opinions about them.
I don’t think I’m unduly picky about spelling and grammar. A lot of word-workers get very upset about the use of American words in Commonwealth English, or vice versa, for instance. But I frequently mix US English terms into my largely Commonwealth writing, when they make more sense.
“Flashlight”, for example, is just a better word than “torch”. Its meaning is clearer. And “torch” can, of course, continue to be used when someone’s referring to oxy-acetylene or oily-rag-on-a-stick.
I still spell “analog” as “analogue”, but I don’t feel very good about it. It’s
stilly silly [dang it - a typo in a post about word-pickiness… now I’m going to hell].
(The ludicrous Frenchified “programme” is also dying out in Australia, thank goodness.)
Yes, I’m annoyed by dumb apostrophe placement and have made reference to Bob’s Quick Guide to the Apostrophe in the past, but apo’strophe’s in the wrong place hardly ever damage the meaning of a sentence. They just make it a bit harder to read.
The growing plague of dangling modifiers is much more likely to cloud the actual meaning of what people say. As Clive James pointed out in an essay in a magazine which I read because I’m frightfully erudite and, let’s face it, better than most of you, “At the age of five, his father died” is comprehensible once you stop and go back over it again. But if the same mistake lurks in “At the age of eighteen, his father died”, you’re likely to cruise right on through and get entirely the wrong idea.
(Update: That essay’s online now, here.)
But I’m not too bothered by that, either.
There are some things, however, up with which I will not put, even if they don’t actually do any harm to the meaning of the sentences where they’re used.
Take, for instance, the word “hobbiest”.
I can accept that people without a strong grasp of the many and varied rules of English word construction could come up with that word when they meant to say “hobbyist”. And it doesn’t blur meaning when it’s used. It’s not as if you’re ever going to be wondering whether the writer actually meant to indicate someone who was hobbier than thou.
But it’s ugly-ugly-ugly and it sticks in my brain and it hurts me. And it’s bloody everywhere (note that it actually only appears in links to Bill Beaty’s quirky and excellent Science Hobbyist site, if you don’t count one comment on his guestbook).
“Hobbiest” is in dire danger of becoming an accepted way to spell the bloody word.
A similar, less common, but to my mind even more horrid word: “Turrent”.
Found, disturbingly often, on pages where “hobbiest” is also used.
It’s a conspiracy, I tell you.
And, finally, could the marketer who decided that the term “in store” or, joy of joys, “instore” needed to be included in every second advertisement please step forward?
Thank you so very much. You were right, of course; before your brilliant innovation, there was no way to convey to an audience the information that the product shown in the advertisement was actually available for sale! However did commerce survive, before you came along?
It’s high time you claimed your reward. They’re waiting for you just through there.